Throughout its long history, Armenia has been at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and military campaigns. Traces of that past are still present to this day. As a result, sightseeing in Armenia is an exciting chance to time travel. Mix in a 1,700-year-old Christian tradition and you’ve got the cultural fingerprint of Armenia. In this post, we offer a glimpse of the most essential cultural and historic sights in Armenia.
Garni Temple & Geghard Monastery
Garni is probably one of the most popular attractions in Armenia, thanks to its unique historical and cultural significance, as well as the beautiful nature around
Your next stop is the Geghard monastery, only 10 km away from Garni. This fourth-century monastery is partly carved out of rock. This building technique was popular among Armenian architects in the Middle Ages due to its extreme resilience against earthquakes. The monastic complex consists of several buildings and a number of rock-cells where hermits used to live. Geghard is a true masterpiece of Armenian medieval architecture and no sightseeing tour in Armenia should miss it.
Tip #1: Make sure to stop by the Charentsi Kamar outlook on the way to Garni near the village of Voghjaberd, where you can enjoy serene landscapes and an unparalleled view of Mount Ararat.
Ejmiadzin Cathedral & Zvartnots
The quickest and easiest day trip you can take outside of Yerevan is to the nearby town of Etchmiadzin. As the religious center of Armenia, Etchmiadzin houses the residence of the supreme religious leader of all Armenians, the Catholicos. There are a number of early Christian churches in the town, such as St. Hripsimeh church. The Cathedral and its churches are a part of UNESCO World Heritage. There is also a museum in the area of the Holy See with a collection of religious and spiritual art that is definitely worth visiting. Just keep in mind that the museum is only open until 18:00 every day, except Monday.
On your way back to Yerevan, make sure to stop by the ruins of another church, the Zvartnots. It was built in the 7th century, and its architecture was very ahead of its time. Unfortunately the church was destroyed after a devastating earthquake. Despite that you can still take in some its magnificence, as the pillars of its circular exterior have been restored.
Located in the center of Yerevan, the museum of the ancient manuscripts, Matenadaran is a mandatory stop for anyone who wants to learn about Armenian culture. Established in 1959 the museum, which also functions as a research institution, hosts over 20.000 ancient manuscripts in Armenian, Latin, Persian, Hebrew, Greek etc. The manuscripts cover topics as diverse as philosophy, medicine, science, mathematics, history, literature, miniature and more. The oldest artifact, related to the invention of Armenian alphabet dates back to the 5 AD. Some of the documents aren’t preserved in their original language but the Armenian translations are kept in the collection. Matenadaran is open every day from 10:00-17:00 except Sundays and Mondays.
Lake Sevan and Noratus
Another landmark you can see on a one-day sightseeing trip in Armenia is the famous lake Sevan, about 70 km northeast of Yerevan. Located at an altitude of 1,900 meters, it is one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs. If you happen to be in Sevan in July or August, you can even go swimming. While you’re there, you should also visit Noratus. It is a medieval burial site with hundreds of stone-carved tombs (khachqar), a unique example of Armenian stone-carving art. Noratus features around 900 stone-carved tombs, some of which have strange and fascinating motifs. One of them, for example, features a scene from a wedding. Be sure to also visit an eighth-century monastery on the Sevan peninsula with breathtaking view of the lake. Bring a warm jacket with you, as there are often strong winds in the area, even at the height of summer.
Tip #3: Try local fish or crayfish dishes in one of the nearby restaurants while enjoying the view of the lake.
Sightseeing in Yenokavan
A village with a population of less than 500 people that is located amidst picturesque landscapes is guaranteed to give you a welcome respite from stressful city life. Despite its small size, Yenokavan has more than just sightseeing to offer, including traces of prehistoric settlements, abandoned churches and an adventure park if you’re looking for some more active fun. All of these attractions make a visit to Yenokavan a must if you are in the Tavush region. Throw some authentic local cuisine into the equation and you will become a devoted Yenokavan fan, like the many others who have visited before.
Hidden in the forests not very far away from the center of Dilijan is the small, freshwater lake called Parz Litch. It is a popular destination for family picnics, but also has some on-site attractions available, such as a small zip-line over the lake and boat rentals. Parz Litch is also the starting point of a 3-4 hour hiking trail towards the Goshavank monastery. The trail is marked with white and red marks on the trees to keep you from getting lost on the path. The trail is relatively easy and very well suited for a beginner or intermediate hiker.